Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Little Sparrows and Piggy Cheeks

Once upon a time our kitchen was very small. That wasn't such a bad thing though and in some ways it was rather efficient due to it's size. Everything was immediate to hand, surfaces were kept intentionally sparse to preserve valuable space and with minimal effort and energy I could crank out a decent meal or two. Then two little blips appeared on the horizon. Well on an ultra scan monitor actually. Due to their unusual shapes we called them 'hedgehog' and 'bean' and we decided there and then that more room to swing the proverbial cat would be needed. So we extended the kitchen and it became huge. I spent an inordinate and frustrating amount of time using IKEA's very own 3D home planner software to fit the new space out with new cupboards, shelves, drawers and cubby holes and to be honest I am not sure that I did a good job of it. For one I ignored that most basic design principle, be aware of the kitchen's holy Trinity. Which if you didn't know is the oven, the fridge and the sink. When planning what goes where, just make sure that these three divine shrines of domesticity are relatively close to each other. Equidistant if you're really anal. My failure comes down to the fact that I put the fridge and oven within easy distance to each other but left the sink sprawling over at the other end of the room. The result? Well whenever I am in the kitchen cooking, a mini marathon ensues as I dart from the fridge to the sink to the oven to the sink to the oven to the fridge to the sink. Leaving a hazardous and slippy trail of water, peelings, flour, butter and other detritus in my wake. In fact what am I talking about? I blame the IKEA software, it should have alerted me that I was steering away from the holy Trinity. Yeah, there should have been some kind of alarm or yodelling pop-up assistant saying "bork bork bork! don't forgets ze Trinity yah! bork bork bork!" But. There. Was. Nothing.

However, when I designed the kitchen, the one thing though that I can't blame on our Scandinavian cousins was the overzealous impulse to install as much cupboard space as possible. That was definitely my fault and we have tons. And when the kitchen was finished, it felt rather good. Well it does doesn't it? Throw what you like at me world but hey I will always have a corner in my house where I store away my beloved KitchenAid Blender, all neat and tidy like. The problem is that over time, if you're like me you tend to accumulate all kinds of useless cooking paraphernalia, largely from places like IKEA* and before you know it you have cupboards and cupboards full of crap. So if I get the chance again, I will design my kitchen with less cupboard space and drag the sink closer to the oven and the fridge.

But what is done is done (for now) so the other day I set about the task of clearing out one cupboard that was mysteriously full of Tupperware boxes and plastic takeaway trays and chanced upon a Pyrex pizza tray with holes, still in it's packaging. I scratched my head for a minute or two, trying to figure out why I had bought this rather gimmicky item but suddenly remembered I got it out of a pound shop thinking that it may serve me well should I ever want to make some spätzle. I first encountered 'German pasta' at the sadly defunct Konstam where it was served up with roast Uxbridge chicken. The spätzle had been decadently pan-fried in beurre noisette and mixed with herbs and I thought it was delicious. After that evening I was determined to make some of these fluffy, doughy.... er squiggly dumplings at home. That was probably about 4 years ago now and I had forgotten all about spätzle until I fished the pizza tray out just the other day which gives you an appreciation of my sense of purpose. But still I made some the other night and was fairly happy with the result, the spätzle wasn't quite as big and fluffy as I remember but they were still very good. There are various recipes out there and I did do some research first, getting a lot of advice from Sara of Sasasunakku on Twitter. Essentially the basics are the same, flour, eggs, salt and a smidgen of water. So here is a very simple step by step guide should you ever feel inclined to make some spätzle at home. Ha, I do like the professional tone of that last sentence, like I'm the frigging spätzle King, this was the first time I ever tried it!

First take a pizza tray with holes. Or a colander. Or even a proper spätzle plate or press. You will also need something to push the dough through. A dough scraper is deemed to the best utensil but apparently you can use the back of a ladle. I used a B&Q grout spreader that I found in the shed and I promise you Mrs FU, it had never ever been used and I gave it a scrupulous clean under the tap.

So make up your spätzle dough by mixing 250gms of plain flour (or tippo '00') with 5 large free range eggs, a teaspoon of salt and a dash of water. The dough has to be quite loose, almost like a batter for you to be able to push it through your chosen receptacle.

Heat a large of pot of water on the hob until it's boiling fast and strong. Place your chosen receptacle over the pot and pour in the middle a ladle of dough/batter.

Spread the batter across your chosen receptacle with your chosen utensil, pushing every last bit through as quickly as you can. The spätzle is ready when it pops up to the surface (mine took less than a minute) so keep an eye on it. With a slotted spoon take the spätzle out and place in a bowl of iced water to stop it cooking further.

Repeat the process until everything is used up and like I said go quickly otherwise you will find that the dough/begins to set on your chosen receptacle and everything starts to get very sticky and messy.

Once drained and dried with kitchen towel, the spätzle should look like this (again should it? I am not the spätzle King). All ready to be warmed through with a nice cheese sauce poured over as an accompaniment to some nice fat bratwurst.

Or you could serve the spätzle up, pan fried in beurre noisette and mixed with parsley and chives (which I did in homage to Oliver Rowe) to accompany some pig cheeks braised in red wine with spicy red cabbage. Next week I am going to clean out some more cupboards and see what will inspire me to cook next. This could be the start of an interesting journey, I may not be the Spätzle King but I am certainly the King of Kitchen Crap.


As a footnote, the piggy cheeks were purchased from Barbecoa Butchery which is attached to Mr Jamie Oliver's new venture at One New Change, St Pauls. The guys there are a great laugh, especially the toothless wonder, pay them a visit.

(*and actually yes I am blaming you again............. fucking Swedes)

14 comments:

miranda_richardson said...

Go on - show us a before and after picture of the kitchen!

Green Onions said...

I love spätzle was introduced to it by a German Colleague a couple of years ago. Goes perfectly with a good stew and makes a good alternative to Suet Dumplings

Kavey said...

I want MORE kitchen cupboard space. I need about 10 kitchens worth. Same for bedroom storage, dining room storage and the rest of the bloody house. Because I'm a fucking magpie.

Your spatzle look lovely.

Lisa said...

What Kavey said. Need. More. Cupboards! Not less stuff. Never less stuff.

Well done Mr Urchin, that all looked delicious!

whitewineandsoda said...

one word - awesome

Joshua said...

I've been wanting to make spaetzle for ages but always baulked at the pressing through something. I think you've given me confidence though.

Looking at that link to a spaetzle press maybe a potato ricer would work too.

Food Urchin said...

Miranda - I would but Mrs FU wouldn't let me, she's ashamed of the mess I make but then again I suspect she's got OCD

Green Onions - I am definitely going to make some more with my trusty kit.

Kavey - ah a kleptomaniac! just like me except I shift most of the stuff I pinch down the pub.

Lisa - thank you, maybe I will take that title after all, King of Spaztle

Whitewineandsoda - it was awesome, very awesome, supremely awesome.

Joshua - it is very easy to do, try and find (or make) something with larger holes, I think that's on key

The Grubworm said...

Wow, i like that your swedes sound like the gull from watership down.

Good job on the spaetzle it sounds like one of those times when controlled mania is useful, just to keep the speed up. They sound something like a cross between gnocchi and udon noodles. Like the look of the piggy cheeks too.

Sasa said...

Oh come on now, clearly you ARE the Spätzle King. All hail the Spätzle King. They look awesome - next try Käsespätzle...Or not, if you like your heart to beat at at even pace.

meemalee said...

They look reet good - like wiggly worms but in a scrummy way. Pig cheek recipe please.

Jonathan said...

Steady on with the Swede-bashing. I love anything that involves pigs cheeks and causing a mess in the kitchen and this ticks both boxes.

Nice work.

Helen said...

I've always wanted a spaetzle maker! believe me now, you can't make spaetzle very easilt through the back of ladle or a colander. Or anything else you think my stand in. It took me about an hour to make the spaetzle trying various methods. I am jealous :)

Pavel said...

Loving the Pig Cheeks and intrigued by the Spatzle... Oh and less cupboards more shelves and racks to SHOW off your stuff!

Lizzie said...

I need spatzle in my life. But not the ensuing mess it creates.